The origins of money are murky and mysterious | Science News

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Conflict reigns over the history and origins of money

Thousands of years ago, money was a means of debt payment, archaeologists and anthropologists say

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8:00am, July 29, 2018
Maya mural

MONEY MYSTERIES  Painted murals found in a small pyramid at the Classic Maya site of Calakmul depict scenes of people exchanging and consuming goods in what may have been a marketplace. Stylistic details indicate that the images date to nearly 1,400 years ago.

Wherever you go, money talks. And it has for a long time.

Sadly, though, money has been mum about its origins. For such a central element of our lives, money’s ancient roots and the reasons for its invention are unclear.

As cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin multiply into a flock of digital apparitions, researchers are still battling over how and where money came to be. And some draw fascinating parallels between the latest, buzzworthy cryptocurrencies, which require only a virtual wallet, and a type of money developed by one Micronesian island community that wouldn't fit in anyone's wallet, pocket or purse.

When it comes to money’s origins, though, conflict reigns. Economists have held one view of money’s origins for hundreds of years. But a growing number of anthropologists and archaeologists, holding a revisionist view, say that economists’ standard story is

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